June 03, 2020
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‘Cats are just like Portlanders’: Kitten therapy calms city

PORTLAND, Maine — Kittens long ago took over calendars and the Internet. On Wednesday, they took over Congress Square Park.

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland and the Friends of Congress Square Park set up the “Kitten Therapy” event partly for fun, partly for raising awareness about adoption programs and entirely for the joy of kittens.

“They melt my heart,” park volunteer Maureen “Mo” Hannigan said. “It’s their innocence.”

Hannigan lives adjacent to the park and spent the better part of the morning filling out numbers for an ever-growing line of people waiting for their turn in the wooden kitten petting pen. She had a feeling the draw to the event was more than just cuteness.

“Cats are just like Portlanders — fiercely independent,” Hannigan said.

That was evident to Theresa Klement, who lives in the same building as Hannigan, right next to the park. She took a turn in the petting pen.

“I liked it in there, but I picked up a kitten that didn’t want to be picked up,” Klement said. She had brought a small cat carrier to the event, but said she was “still debating” whether to get a kitten. She had two cats for years, both of whom had passed away, she said.

By about noon Wednesday, at least one kitten, Hector, had won his way into a permanent home.

Jeana Roth, community relations manager for the animal shelter, said the idea kicked into gear by Friends of Congress Square programming volunteer Tracie Reed came at the right time, “right in the middle of kitten season.”

While the level of excitement about the kittens delighted Hannigan and those she saw out Wednesday morning — “just watch their faces,” she said — she could think of one creature who wouldn’t enjoy the young cats quite as much.

“I have an 18-year-old cat and I think I would be pushing it to the max to invite someone else in, darling though it may be,” Hannigan said.

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